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Solar airplane past point of ‘no return’ in Pacific crossing

A solar-powered aircraft can no longer turn back in its second attempt at making a record-breaking journey across the Pacific Ocean.

Solar Impulse is being piloted by Andre Borschberg between Japan and Hawaii, a journey taking approximately 120 hours, and there will be no opportunity to land the craft should it encounter difficulties.

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The plane is attempting to circumnavigate the globe using solar power alone, but the Pacific Ocean leg is proving the most challenging. The team behind the journey has already waited two months for weather conditions to improve and previous take-off attempts have been abandoned over concerns regarding the pilot’s safety.

"Andre Borschberg has passed the point of no return and must now see this 5 days 5 nights flight through to the end," Solar Impulse said on its website. The chairman of the company also claimed that the flight to Hawaii was also the “the point of no return for the entire project.”

If Mr Borschberg is successful, he will achieve the longest solo flight in aviation historian in terms of duration and the furthest distance flown by a solar powered aircraft. He will have to spend the entire flight strapped into his chair and will only be able to sleep for twenty minutes at a time. The pilot has stated that he will use yoga and meditation to help him through the journey.

If the plane fails to charge its batteries sufficiently or a technical fault occurs, the pilot may have to bail out over the Pacific Ocean. Mr Borschberg is equipped with a dinghy and supplies lasting several days should they be needed.

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However, if Solar Impulse succeeds in crossing the world’s largest ocean, the next leg of its world tour will begin in earnest. Pilot Bertrand Piccard will guide the craft from Hawaii across the US mainland with a further flight across the Atlantic scheduled shortly after.